31 Dec 2017

A new year beckons, new adventures on the horizon

We have pretty much exhausted our travels in the eastern Caribbean now and it is time for us to plan some new adventures. We have decided to join a rally almost as soon as we return to Tumi in early November that will take us down to the ABC islands just north of Venezuela (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) then on to Santa Marta in Columbia, then to Cartagena for new year, which apparently is spectacular. From there we will progress to the San Blas islands where we will join up with the World ARC rally in time to go through Panama Canal and into the Pacific. Exciting times ahead!

Speaking of new year, we are anchored in Freeman Bay, part of English Harbour on Antigua. It is a really pretty anchorage, but it is notoriously busy and all boats tend to do 360° pirouettes during the course of 24 hours. It makes for some interesting close encounters as the boats are any which way but the same which is normal in other anchorages, but since we are sitting in a bowl, the winds swirl and eddy as they please, taking the boats with them. Still, we have fenders out on both sides just in case (as do all the other boats), so we should hopefully be OK. The reason we are here is that there are fireworks at midnight, being set off from Fort Berkeley, a rocky promontory that guards the anchorage from marauding French frigates (they are still trying to invade British territory) and which is 50 yards away from us, so we should get a prime view of the pyrotechnics. We have also been invited to join some sailing friends for drinks and snacks on the quayside this evening so we will be baking this morning to prepare our offerings.

As we came into the anchorage yesterday a classic sailing yacht was just making sail and leaving the harbour. Beautiful sleek lines and a picture to behold.

We watched a very serene sundown a few days ago and were rewarded with a perfect green flash as the sun dipped below the horizon. That is the second flash in 2 weeks, unusual indeed, but always a pleasure to see. As the sun was dropping down rapidly the first time, I mentioned to Joan (Debra's mum) that there might be a green flash any second, she replied with "wait a minute" and continued drying up the dishes. Needless to say that five seconds later it had come and gone and she missed the opportunity to witness such a rare event. Nature waits for no man.

Looking back at the year, we have had some tough sailing conditions, but thankfully we have weathered the storms. We have also enjoyed some great sailing days. Tumi has performed brilliantly throughout and is a pleasure to sail. Long may it continue.

Happy New Year to everyone, may your journeys be ever fruitful, and may the water remain under your keel!

25 Dec 2017

Christmas Day, Jolly Harbour, Antigua

We decided to come into the marina for Christmas Day so arrived yesterday afternoon in high winds ... we were both a bit apprehensive manoeuvring Tumi into a tight berth in the conditions but Paul did an excellent job on the helm and I worked with the dockhands to secure lines.  Phew!  As soon as we were settled we got the presents and cards out, as well as the small Christmas tree .... all looking very festive!

We had dinner at friends that evening ... they're renting a condo on the complex until their boat is splashed back in this coming week.

Christmas morning dawned sunny and warm (no surprise there!) and armed with a glass of bucks fizz we tackled the present table.  An early walk down to the beach under our belts, we tucked into a "full english" which should be enough to sustain us until dinner this evening.

So now we're doing the traditional Christmas Day activity of snoozing and watching movies ... just shows that wherever you are in the world, things happen in a very similar manner!

Merry Christmas.

23 Dec 2017

The day before Christmas Eve 2017

We are here in Antigua waiting for Santa to land his sled on the water so that he can deliver our presents on board Tumi. We have had our Christmas lights up decorating the boat for weeks now to make things more festive, the supermarkets and stores have been playing carols in reggae (something you really need to experience first hand to appreciate) but somehow the warm weather just doesn't make it feel Christmassy. Never mind, we will enjoy ourselves anyway: Joan made a pudding and a cake for us which will go down very well, and we are dining out at the local restaurant to get our turkey and stuffing fix.

During the week we have been sailing round the island with lots of shore time to explore the hinterland and swim off the beaches.

The other day, I was in the shallows with a fish around me, swimming through my legs and suddenly it darted into my side and bit me. I have a raised mole on my side which obviously looked like food and the fish clearly wanted to eat it. Their teeth hurt when they bite! Needless to say, I shooed it away and it swam off but I was quite affronted. It was a first experience like that for me, and no sympathy was forthcoming from Debra either.

The Christmas winds have arrived just in time, blowing at a steady 20-25 knots. Getting into the tight marina tomorrow will be a challenge. Great!

Merry Christmas to all our readers and we hope you continue to visit our blog in 2018.

13 Dec 2017

13 December 2017 Antigua

There are lies, damn lies, and weather forecasts.

How often do we report in our blog that the weather forecasters have got it SO wrong? Too many times. We fell foul of them once again on our way from Les Saintes to Antigua. We had checked the weather daily, even though we were enjoying the French island's hospitality and it seemed to us that Saturday was a good day to make the passage. 15 to 20 knots of wind, coming from the East. Perfect for a nice easy sail. No! We managed to sail most of the leeward side of Guadeloupe (unusual in itself, we mostly have to motor) but we thought that it was a bonus not to have to put the engine on to keep our speed up. As we passed the north end of the island, we were hit by 40 to 45 knot winds. Catabatic winds, we thought, they will settle down as we get clear of the influence of the north end of the landmass. How wrong we were. We had reefed the sails down heavily to just a scrap of canvas in both the sails and we screamed our way north at 10 knots through the water, 8 knots over ground allowing for the current running against us. It was a lively sail to say the least!

I tried my hand at fishing on the way, but at 8 knots, there aren't many fish that can take the lure and the journey proved once again unfruitful. Doesn't stop me trying though. Arriving back in Antigua, we anchored in Falmouth Harbour and spent the night on board under the yellow quarantine flag. Don't panic, that just means that we haven't cleared customs and immigration which I duly did on Sunday morning, paying over my $40 fees. There is a premium for clearing into Falmouth, but it is less hassle, so it balances itself out. It's nice being back, and on Saturday evening at 6pm we were entertained by a cacophonous medley of ships horns throughout the anchorage. We hoped it would be repeated on Sunday and we were ready with our recorder to be able to share it with you, but no such luck. We'll try again another day and post the concert!

On Monday, the forecast was wrong yet again. We wanted to sail around to Jolly Harbour. The forecast said next to no wind, dropping as the day progressed to almost nothing. We decided to go anyway, weighed anchor and departed. As we cleared the land, the winds picked up and we had a great sail round. Sometimes they get it wrong and it actually works in our favour, a rare occasion.

Here in JH, we have been busy getting a few things sorted  out on the boat repairing toilets (always my favourite sh*tty job) splicing bridles for quick and easy attachment to mooring balls (I like splicing), fixing hinges on the companionway doors that had worked themselves wobbly, repaired some flipflops, and spliced a clip onto the painter (rope) for the dinghy to make it easier to attach when we tie it up. The real bonus was that we needed some spares from the chandlers, and I happened to notice on a tourist map that Debra had picked up somewhere that if I presented said map at the checkout we would get 10% discount in the store. It caused a bit of a stir as I was the first person to take advantage of this offer this year, but they honoured it as they had to and we ended up getting lots of spares, far more than they wanted us to!

The other thing we have done this week is make our first steps in preparing to join the World ARC in January 2019. We are now the proud owners of the electronic charts for the Pacific Islands and Australia & New Zealand which I found at bargain prices online. We are also in negotiations for the paper versions, cruising guides, and courtesy flags for the countries between St Lucia and Australia. We have also contacted our sailing friends who have expressed an interest in joining us for various of the legs of the journey and have received enthusiastic replies. It looks as though we will have more than enough support for the trip, which is good news indeed.

The sunsets have been pretty amazing too.

This one has Montserrat in the background with the volcano smoking vigorously. We wonder how long it will be before it erupts again.

The other bit of news is that Debra and I have become models for a line of jewellery. We bought some bracelets from a lady we met in the BVI earlier this year who has recently moved to Antigua as the BVI have been totally trashed by the hurricane this year. She asked us to take photos of ourselves wearing her bracelets which we have done, and now they are proudly displayed on her website for all to see. Fame at last?

Last night we had a barbecue.

I was sitting on the bathing platform with the barbecue cooking our protein and you would not believe the size of the Tarpon that were swimming by just a foot below my perch. I shone the torch down into  the water and their eyes gleamed green in the beam with their bodies stretching behind them. I know that the predators all appear at night, seeing just how big these things are, I ain't going swimming after dark!

8 Dec 2017

8 December 2017 Les Saintes

When we first arrived in Les Saintes, we didn't think that there had been much damage caused by this year's hurricane. How wrong we were. We have walked all round the island in the past few days and it is a story of two halves. The windward side of the island (the eastern side) has been hard hit; trees are down, the beaches are strewn with debris which has yet to be cleared away by the only tractor on the island. It will be a steady, but lengthy process to get the rubbish cleared.

Several houses appear to be taking advantage of the piles of rubbish to dispose of a few unwanted chattels, but who can blame them? In general, the houses and businesses appear to have withstood the onslaught, but we were chatting to one lady about the storm and she told us exactly what happened. The storm raged through the island for 6 hours. As it approached, it rose from a category 1 to 2, then 3, then 4/5 in a very short space of time. Then the island had the eye pass over and the back half hit shortly afterwards. During the storm a few boats were pushed onto the beach and we have noticed that some of the moorings are missing too.

It is probably early in the sailing season here, but there are several moorings free every day. Normally it is a scramble in the mornings to grab any buoy that comes free as boats move on. We had a particularly windy night last night, and as I checked our lines this morning I noticed that one of our two lines had virtually chafed through overnight. I replaced the line as soon as I could and we are now ok, but it just goes to show that the weather still wreaks havoc and we can't be complacent.

Yesterday we had lunch at a waterside restaurant called Ti Do Boubou, which gets the best ratings on the island, and the rating is very justified. The food was excellent, the setting sublime, and the company unbeatable (it was just the two of us!).

We are sitting in a really nice cafe using their internet service drinking a belgian beer - I love belgian beer!

5 Dec 2017

5 December 2017 Les Saintes

Of islands and winds ....
We sailed up through the Windward Islands from Carriacou to Les Saintes in one hop, arriving yesterday morning to pick up a mooring ball in the bay off Le Bourg De Saintes.

On the way up we took the leeward side of the islands but gave ourselves plenty of distance from shore to avoid the wind shadowing effect of the mountains - or so we thought! But we were wrong. Even though we were over 15 miles offshore it still wasn't far enough and we ended up motoring until we cleared the tops of the islands and picked up the trade winds again to resume sailing. That said, the winds were blowing constantly at around 25 knots and with reefs in both sails we were maintaining an average of 8 knots speed over ground, 10 knots through the water (the current was running against us, slowing our progress a bit). Once we got past St Lucia, we were able to turn away from the waves and current a bit and the ride from there was much smoother and we let George the autohelm do some of the work as we sailed on through the night.

As we passed Dominica, we decided that we would 'run silent' as the people on the island are pretty desperate after the hurricane and we didn't want to advertise our presence to any opportunistic pirates by showing our navigation lights which can be seen from miles away, so we turned them off and ghosted by the island unnoticed at 8.5 knots until it was daylight and we lost the wind again and had to turn on the engine once more. The night sail was really easy with a full moon to illuminate the seas, it was like sailing in twilight, magic!

Back in Les Saintes, even though they were also hit by the hurricane, it is life as normal. Some of the trees have been blown down or stripped of their foliage, but it appears to be life as usual here. Three of the four ATM machines on the island are out of order but we found the fourth 'billetterie' dans La Poste, and that one was operating. A good thing really, as we had arrived with a €20 note and nothing else expecting to use at least one of the cash machines. I was surprised just how vexed I was not to have 'monnaie dans ma poche' much to Debra's amusement, but as it turned out, for some reason the supermarche rejected our cash passport card and we had to pay with cash after all!

We returned to Tumi armed with a cache of French cheese, salami, a Baguette and 🍷 for our lunch. It was so good and we ate so much, we both had to have a post prandial nap 💤 although that may be partly due to the lack of sleep the night before!

We saw some wildlife on the way up - a whale ~30 feet long surfaced right next to us and dived back down again, and Debra saw several other spouts nearby; and the dolphins came to visit a few times too. No turtles to report, but loads of Sargassum weed around. It really is a nuisance when you are trying to fish as it attaches itself to the lure which then needs reeling in to clear it off. We also had our first flying fish of the season land on the deck flapping and fluttering its wings and leaving a snail trail of scales on the boat. I picked it up and repatriated (or the ocean equivalent) it before it expired and it swam away without a word of thanks. It will probably have been eaten by a frigate bird now.